How to Do Things with Worlds

deadline for submissions: 
December 16, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Indiana University English Department

How to Do Things with Worlds

Department of English, Indiana University Bloomington

 Conference Dates: April 10 & 11, 2020

Submission Deadline: December 16, 2019 [UPDATED]

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Vanessa Plumly

Assistant Professor of German, Lawrence University


“A ‘world’ need not be a construction of a whole society. It may be a construction of a tiny portion of a particular society. It may be inhabited by just a few people. Some ‘worlds’ are bigger than others.”

- Maria Lugones, “Playfulness, ‘World’-Travelling, and Loving Perception” (1987)


“For poetry makes nothing happen; it survives…

a way of happening, a mouth.”

- W. H. Auden, “In Memory of W. E. B. Yeats” (1939)


Now is a good time to think upon the state of our worlds. Now is also a good time to act upon the state of our worlds. With the threat of climate disaster looming ever closer, the rise and emboldening by governmental bodies of white supremacist terrorism, and the continued attempted eradication of people of color in America, now is a good time to ask, who are our worlds for? Because worlds are made up from the “descriptions and constructions of life,” they are open to re-description and re-construction (Lugones). We envision this conference taking the pun on J. L. Austin’s How to Do Things with Words seriously in order to think, on the one hand, about the performativity of word-making, and on the other, its interplay with “world”-making—that is, how language constructs the worlds we inhabit, and its uses and limitations in spurring action or bringing about new possible worlds. Where does academia fit into this? Where does poetic and fictional world-making fit into this? How do we do the things that are urgently begging to be done with the skills that we’ve spent years cultivating?  What opportunities can be leveraged, what constraints must be negotiated, and what limits must be acknowledged in investing in our scholarship and teaching as a force for doing things with, in, and, at times, against worlds? 

“How to Do Things with Worlds” is, for us, a question of what we should be making out of this specific spatio-historical moment. In your own reflections on how to do things with worlds, some topic areas to consider may include (but are not limited to):

  • How - The attitudes taken towards our doing.
    • The role of academia in public or civic action
    • Speculative realisms
    • Critique and post-critique
    • Affect studies
  • To Do - Action that may also involve our being and our knowing.
    • Queer worldmaking
    • Materiality and language
    • Performance studies and performativity
    • Phenomenology
    • Reception theory and historiography
  • Things - Putting our knowing to material uses.
    • Social activism and protest
    • Public-facing scholarship and public humanities
    • Pedagogy
  • With - But also in, and sometimes, if necessary, against; a cooperative endeavor.
    • Citizenship
    • Community writing
    • Digital humanities and digital rhetorics
  • Worlds - Life, shared.
    • Borders and migration
    • Geography and area studies
    • Decolonial studies
    • The public sphere and counterpublics
    • The environment, ecocriticism, and the Anthropocene
    • Rhetorics of space and place
    • Science fiction, especially Afrofuturism
    • Animal studies

We invite proposals for

  • Individual scholarly papers and creative works (15-minute presentations; 250-word abstract)
  • Panels organized around a thematic topic (three 20-minute papers or four 15-minute papers; 350-word panel abstract as well as a brief abstract for each individual paper on the panel)

Email your submission to by 11:59 PM EST on December 1, 2019. In your email, please submit your abstract (both in the body of the email and as an attachment), along with your name, institutional affiliation, degree, email, and phone number. We are also happy to address questions about the conference via email. You can find more information and news about the conference at


About our Keynote Speaker

Vanessa Plumly is Assistant Professor of German at Lawrence University, faculty affiliate in Ethnic Studies, and an ACM Mellon Faculty Fellow. She received her PhD in German Studies for the University of Cincinnati, her MA in German Studies from the University of Kentucky, and her BA in German and History from Bethany College.

In 2018, Plumly co-edited the volume Rethinking Black German Studies: Approaches, Interventions and Histories with Dr. Tiffany N. Florvil. Together with Florvil, she also has recently initiated a series entitled “Imagining Black Europe” through Peter Lang Press.

Plumly has published her scholarship in peer-reviewed journals and edited volumes, exploring topics such as on surveillance in the German crime series, Tatort, pedagogical approaches to the German past through film, refugee assemblages and the intersectionality of fear, the Black German hip-hopper Samy Deluxe, and most recently on Black Germans’ decolonization of Heimat (Home). Her forthcoming research focuses on post-imperialist facades, linked security, and Black German’s racial hauntings.

Currently, Plumly serves as co-chair of the Black Diaspora Studies Network at the German Studies Association and is Review Editor for H-Net Black Europe. In 2018, she was awarded the AATG/German Embassy Teacher of Excellence Award.


This conference is generously supported by the Department of English, Department of American Studies, Department of Anthropology, Department of History, Department of Sociology, and the Cultural Studies Program